Neil Lessman: Moscow, Russia
Trustee on the Board of Directors and the Director of LEI, Neil leads from the front by serving as Project Manager for our Russian partners. After completing his MBA at Wisconsin, Neil started work in Russia with the Navigators in 1981. During the Soviet era he traveled throughout the USSR discipling church leaders of whom many still serve the Lord today. Since 1991 he has lived with his family in Moscow and helped leaders of churches and non-profits.
Passionate about demonstrating the gospel in real life, Neil became an expert at micro and small enterprise development for poor, at-risk and energetic young people who want to live their Christianity out in the business world. Neil has a unique talent for making connections to his extensive personal network and for playing guitar in worship bands. He is also a gifted exhorter who cares deeply about restoring broken lives and relationships to spiritual health. Skilled at managing difficult negotiations, Neil is always on the hunt for new ways to raise funds and save on our costs.
Jane Lessman: Moscow, Russia
Trustee on our board of Directors, Jane finds ways to disciple women who love to study the Bible with her. Jane lived in Hong Kong and England after leaving her home on a farm in North Dakota. Now she combines the roles of music teacher in a local high school, mother of four, manager of a Moscow household and hostess to Neil's constant stream of guests.
Jane's ability to cut to the bottom line learned after years of this multi-tasking is appreciated at our board meetings. Perhaps, her North Dakota heritage is what serves to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground with a smile on her face as she asks, "How did you think we were going to be able to pay for this?"
Don Helmer: Indianapolis, Indiana
Don is a Trustee on our board of Directors and Manager of Operations. He also is Project Manager for several partners in St. Petersburg, Russia. Don finished a chemistry degree at University of Illinois then joined his father in the archetypal family garage to start a medical equipment company that now has customers in most countries around the world. Don joined Neil and several others in The Navigators as they traveled to the USSR and lived on the edge for Christ. The collapse of the USSR did not end this adventure. After going back to school to earn his MBA from Warwick, he is ready to help others do what he loves.
Thinking through solutions to complex problems and reading about philosophy are Don's ideas of fun! Searching out practical ways to implement Christian values in the workplace gives him many opportunities to solve problems. Teaching international business at Indiana Wesleyan University and discussing leadership issues of the church in Russia are Don's favorite pastimes, that is, until you ask about his bonsai collection!
Sheryl Helmer: Indianapolis, Indiana
Sheryl is our corporate secretary and principal bookkeeper. After earning her degree in Accounting from University of Alberta she worked six years as senior accountant in the head office of The Navigators of Canada in Toronto.
Meeting the father of her three girls in Vienna during the 80's was a lot like living a chapter from a romance novel. Shortly after Yeltsin climbed off his tank the adventure novel began. Sheryl managed four moves in two years while learning Russian and caring for a 2 year old! This chapter in her life was close to that of a war refugee!
Anyone who has shared their difficulties with Sheryl finds a listening ear and one who habitually says, "Let's pray." And when Sheryl prays, God listens.
Ralph Gatti: Akron, Ohio
Ralph is Coordinator for Central Eurasian Partners' outreach in the US. He connects us with the nine partners in this association and stays in close personal contact with their leaders.
Ralph brings a wealth of experience into our team. We value his 33 years of business experience, including18 years as CEO of A.R.A. Inc., service on many non-profit boards and 25 years in association with the Navigators. He is specially qualified to be at home in both the commercial and non-profit worlds.
Leading Edge definitely appreciates his range of expertise whether the discussion is marketing or understanding the personal needs of his friends in Central Europe. Underneath his unassuming manner beats the passionate heart of a true entrepreneur and promoter. Ralph keeps asking, "How can I help more with the fun part of this job – raising funds for the people who really need it!"
Sue Brandt: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sue is US Administrator for Spasenie Band and the proud mother of four grown children. She organizes Spasenie's US concert tours and is their champion in the greater Chicago - Milwaukee area. She has made it possible for many to serve in Spasenie's unique ministry.
Whether leading fundraising projects or organizing prayer, Sue makes their ministry "sing."